On Friday, ESPN’s John Gasaway remarked that the Syracuse Orange basketball program was at a crossroads. A lot of that centered on the upheaval of the last few seasons, the change to the ACC and most recently, Mike Hopkins’s departure to Washington.
It also talked about SU’s current recruiting questions -- ones we’ve also talked about here extensively. The Orange are on track to miss out on a top-100 prospect for the first time ever. But they’re also still in the running for players with those higher rankings as well for 2017.
The things Gasaway’s post fails to mention when lamenting recent recruiting issues are why those occurred. Focus harps on the transition to the ACC, and that’s a slight factor for sure. But the bigger issues include unexpected NBA Draft declarations and the NCAA sanctions that diminished Syracuse’s recruiting abilities for three straight offseasons.
Syracuse’s initial penalties of 12 scholarships over a four-year span were crippling. The reduction to eight was still pretty rough when you consider how late in the game the NCAA appeal went through.
Couple those with the unexpected early losses of Tyler Ennis, Jerami Grant and Malachi Richardson, and... it’s pretty obvious how and why the Orange hit some rockier ground of late.
And even WITH that rockier ground, the program’s still made two Final Fours in the past five years.
The sanctions are off, and while losing SU’s best recruiter — Hopkins -- would throw any team for a loop, Syracuse is still in the thick of it with big names on the high school recruiting and transfer front. They could still land a couple, and they’re already off and running on a slew of offers for 2018.
This isn’t to say things are perfect, either. Gasaway gets at the fact that things are different of late, and yes, they are. The conference switch has changed our identity a little, and the sanctions (as mentioned) altered our recruiting strategy entirely. Jim Boeheim is not getting any younger and now that Hopkins is gone, the questions around the program’s future should really start there -- not the conference it’s attached to.
If you ask Fran Frischilla, though, the “vibe” isn’t the same as the old Big East days. (obviously, since it’s not the old Big East days...)
There are no guarantees that Syracuse is fine, or well-situated for the future or any of that. There’s no denying that this is, indeed, a crossroads for the Orange basketball program.
But if we’re going to talk about that, let’s at least get the reasons for those crossroads correct.